Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor
For three days straight, we tried to beat the daylights out of the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2. In the end, this Guards Red missile shrugged off the experience and beat the tar out of us instead. All we had to show for our efforts were a bruised right palm, a $1,300 receipt for replacement rear tires and a permanent smile.
While selflessly obliging the lens-carrying members of our staff who asked if it'd be possible to get the 530-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive GT2 to do something interesting for the camera, we kicked this car's butt until we literally grew tired of the effort. And yet the 2008 Porsche 911 GT effectively replied, "Is that all you've got? Give me some more tires and I'm good to go."
And go it does.
How Fast? Real fast. Utilizing Porsche's first launch assist for a manual transmission, the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 rips a 3.9-second time to 60 mph (3.6 with a 1-foot rollout like on a drag strip) on the way to the quarter-mile in 11.7 seconds at 121 mph. Launch protocol requires you to first leave on the traction control as you engage 1st gear, then floor the throttle and watch as the tachometer needle hangs at about 5,000 rpm. You wait for the boost gauge to register about 13 psi and then release the clutch pedal quickly.
After a remarkably smooth launch, the time to shift into 2nd gear arrives so quickly that the analog tachometer is too slow to react. Das ist animal! Luckily, the shift light in the instrument cluster knows this game and gives you the proper warning.
Rather than regulating clutch slip, the ECU's launch assist regulates throttle application to match an ideal launch profile stored in the car's electronics. This way, wheelspin is optimized. (The GT2 will even lightly engage a rear brake to ensure both rear wheels rotate in unison.) Ultimately, however, the launch system proved inconsistent for us, and the GT2 bogged down off the line four out of the five times we went through the launch protocol. Once we shut off the system, our test driver's organic-based software produced nearly identical acceleration runs with far more consistency.
Compared to the 2007 Porsche 911 Turbo with an automatic transmission, the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 is 0.2 second slower to 60 mph. It's 0.1 second behind at the 1,320-foot mark, yet nearly 3 mph faster. We chalk up the differences to a launch advantage from the all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo, while the GT2 exploits its higher horsepower (530 hp versus the Turbo's 480 hp) and lighter weight (3,175 pounds versus the Turbo's 3,596 pounds) to catch and ultimately pass the Turbo at the finish line.
Here are a few comparisons to save you the trouble:
Little Big Man The GT2's twin-turbo 3.6-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder engine delivers 530 hp at 6,500 rpm, a remarkable 147 hp/liter. The 7.0-liter V8 of the Corvette Z06 would have to crank out more than 1,030 horses instead of its trifling 505 hp to achieve comparable efficiency. Equally impressive is the GT2's neck-straining 505 pound-feet of torque available at just 2,200 rpm.
The GT2's prodigious output and efficiency are due in large part to turbos that are even larger than those in the 911 Turbo. They provide 20 psi of maximum boost at wide-open throttle compared to the 911 Turbo's 14.5 psi.
Power delivery is where the GT2 differs mostly from the Porsche 911 GT3. While the GT2 is not what we'd call slow below 3,000 rpm, there's a definite thrill to the car's explosive acceleration above that. It's the kind of car that would be dangerous in the wrong hands.
The GT3's naturally aspirated 415-hp engine with its 12.0:1 compression ratio and 8,400-rpm redline give it crisp throttle control and really, really long legs in every gear. But the GT2 answers that by saying, "You don't need long legs if you can simply leap from corner to corner." The GT2's turbocharged engine has its sweet spot between 3,000 and 6,750 rpm, which makes it more of a point-and-shoot, breathe-when-you-stop experience.
As a result, the GT2 requires shifting gears more frequently over the same stretch of road than the GT3. And, and, frankly, this gets old. The heavy clutch effort and short-throw shift lever seem thrilling the first day, are simply accepted as the cost of doing business on the second day, and then you've got a throbbing left thigh and a bruised right palm at the end of the third day.
Heat and Hang on The GT2's standard carbon-ceramic disc brakes (optional on the GT3) bring this car to a halt from 60 mph in just 96 feet. That's a new record for us, and 7 feet shorter than the 911 Turbo, 5 feet fewer than a GT3 RS and 2 feet shorter than the 2009 Nissan GT-R.
It is pressure on the brake pedal — not the travel of the pedal — that varies the effectiveness of the brakes, a strategy that comes from priorities set at the racetrack. Once you've driven a sports car with brakes like this, you'll never want it any other way, although your right thigh will have a different opinion.
The GT2's gummy, barely street-legal Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires only get stickier with abuse. Without so much as a squealing tire, the GT2 circled the skid pad at 0.99g and threaded the slalom cones at 71.6 mph.
We've recorded slightly better numbers from a GT3 and GT3 RS tested at a different facility with better pavement, but we'd bet the GT2 could produce the same 1.02g and 75-mph performances as its GT3 rivals given the same conditions. Still, the GT2's steering is so informative it can tell you what day of the week the pavement was poured.
Did Somebody Drop a Throttle? Like the 996-generation 911 GT2 that preceded it (2001-'05), the new 997-generation Porsche 911 GT2 rewards a learned driver and punishes a novice. But where the 996 GT2 was a case study in lift-throttle oversteer, the new GT2 is far more forgiving of driver and environmental indiscretions.
To start with, the limited-slip differential begins to engage later than before, and this means crisper turn-in. And to snub down any unpleasantness from a big lift of the throttle at the wrong moment, the GT2 adapts a system nicked from the Carrera GT. In conjunction with the stability and traction control systems, Engine Drag Control limits engine braking by actually applying the throttle slightly if it determines that the slowing rear wheels are making the back end of the car step out of line.
Finally, the GT2 features a sophisticated multilevel stability control system with one setting tailored specifically to track use. There's also the ability to shut off traction control while maintaining a safety net with the stability controls. A brave driver can elect to turn off all the electronic nannies, but thankfully, ABS is always at the ready.
All this electronic supervision comes in handy when you rip a less-than-perfect downshift as you dive into a corner. The problem is that these electronics also make the throttle loath to obey quick inputs. It also means it's even harder for the driver to kick out the GT2's tail into a slide, but where there's a will, there's a way.
Racy Bits While the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 actually isn't intended to participate in races, it has track-ready adjustability.
You can alter the ride height with the spring perches, while the front antiroll bar has four settings and the rear bar has three. Alignment and camber settings can be changed as well.
And as with the GT3, a two-position button determines which PASM (Porsche Active Suspension Management) setting you prefer for the dampers. Your choice is firm or firmer, since the calibration is like that of the harsh-riding GT3 RS.
Also like the GT3 RS, you can even change the gear ratios within its six-speed manual transmission.
Connecting the Apexes If you think of the GT2 as a track-prepped GT3 RS with a nuclear reactor in its rear end instead of a race-proven, homologated 3.6-liter engine, you'd be pretty close. Like a racing car, the harder you drive it, the better it gets.
Whether we were connecting cones on the slalom, corners on Cerro Noreste, or drifting around the Streets of Willow, the new GT2 never broke a sweat — unlike its driver. To even get close to the car's limits requires steely concentration and quick reflexes.
In a GT2, things happen at fast-forward speed, and that's not always comfortable. What once felt like a manageable high-speed sweeper becomes a much shorter, quick corner with genuine entry, apex and exit points. Straights are compressed into short bursts of breathtaking speed, which is an unfortunate consequence because that's where drivers typically take a breath.
In the end, the $192,560 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 is far more civilized and forgiving than the diabolical previous-generation GT2. Yet it's also a far racier tool than the $127,060 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo. It also inspires as much confidence at speed as the track-bred GT3 or GT3 RS, even though it compresses time and space at a previously unheard of rate.
But is the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 worth an $84,000 premium over the $108,360 911 GT3? That depends on where you find your thrills: annihilating straights in the GT2 or finessing corners in the GT3.
If we were spending somebody else's money, we'd forfeit the rush of acceleration found in the GT2 and choose the GT3 instead for its ability to deliver a race-proven engine and unmatched responsiveness in a package that's better suited to real-world driving. The 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 is simply too much of a track-bred exotic car for us.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Senior Editor Erin Riches says: You know how much this car costs and you can imagine what would happen if you booted a Porsche 911 GT2 into a retaining wall. You also know it's not any quicker than the Nissan GT-R. But sometimes it feels like it is. Probably this is because I get fooled each time I release the clutch in 1st gear.
Throttle response is soft in the moment or two it takes the turbochargers to build up boost. Then it all goes brutal, and even though I've been in the urgent GT3, I feel unprepared. The turbos are roaring, the back end is wiggling and I'm almost into the rev limiter before I get off a shift to 2nd. Later when I back off the throttle, I distinctly hear the wastegates closing and I indistinctly hear a child screaming. I check the mirror, but there have been no casualties.
Yet, at part throttle (which is how you have to drive the GT2 most of the time), this car lulls you into liking it for the same reasons you might like lesser Porsches. The six-speed shifter is firm and precise through the gates, and the clutch rewards a deliberate left foot, reinforcing the intimate driver-machine interface that might be called old world by 2008 standards. The steering is also loaded with honest feedback that's enjoyable even if you're not anywhere close to the gargantuan limit of tire grip.
I know why the 2008 Porsche 911 GT2 has to exist. Porsche needs something to counteract the overly rational, straitlaced people like me who would otherwise overpopulate the world with brown-painted base Carreras. Except for missing the GT2's exceptionally supportive carbon-fiber racing seats, I'll be very happy in my boring 911 Carrera.
2008 Porsche 911 GT2
Overall Grade: C+
Price if optional:
Bluetooth for phone:
How does it sound: B- This optional Bose stereo offers a dramatic improvement in sound quality versus the standard four-speaker audio system. Even so, distortion creeps in early as the highs squeak even at moderately high volume. Sound quality overall is a little biased toward highs and that can sometimes mean a thin or hollow tone depending on the type of music you're listening to. Bass is well represented — it's reproduced with a fairly deep tone but there's no real kick.
Bose Audiopilot compensates for interference from road and wind noise and that works out pretty well. However, the system sounds best with the surround feature turned off. All DSP (digital signal processing) systems are simply mimicking true surround sound but this version sounds especially artificial. With surround sound engaged, mids sound flat and lifeless and some of the bass seems to get pulled out, too. It's a decent-sounding system overall, but skip the fake surround sound unless you listen to a lot of classical music while spooling up the GT2's twin turbos.
How does it work: C The 911's basic head unit is easy enough to use once you get the controls all sorted out. The main problem is that there are too many small buttons and it's not instantly clear what each does. If Porsche ditched the clunky telephone keypad that takes up precious center stack real estate, the whole thing would be much easier to operate, plus it would just look clean and simple.
One thing the GT2 lacks is steering-wheel-mounted controls, and this car needs them. There's no way any sane person would reach over to the GT2's head unit to make any kind of adjustment unless the car is parked. Once stopped, adjusting bass, treble and various other audio-related functions is easy thanks to the large display screen (PCM is now standard on the GT2).
Special features: There's a notable special feature that's missing on the GT2. While you can get an optional phone handset, there's no Bluetooth. Considering the GT2's driver-focused goal and the type of person who's likely to buy a 911 GT2, this seems like a glaring omission. And even though the optional phone is wired into the car, the intimidating dash-mounted keypad and Porsche-supplied handset won't help you with hands-free laws that are cropping up across the U.S.
Conclusion: Clearly recorded music is not the GT2's most impressive soundtrack. Still, this Bose system is a good- if not great-sounding stereo. Even mild audiophiles will think the extra $1,300 is money well spent. — Brian Moody, Road Test Editor
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